2022 World Cup – The Blood and Bones of Migrant Workers.

The right to hold the Soccer World Cup was awarded to Qatar by the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) in 2010.

This desert country possessed little football infrastructure, so a $200 billion stadium construction programme commenced. Immediately reports from the country indicated that hundreds of migrant workers were dying in construction-related incidents. 

The Jules Rimet Trophy (Wikimedia).

David Joyce of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) spoke about the deaths of migrant workers in Qatar at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2014.

The 2022 World Cup competition is about to begin in Qatar so let’s look at what has happened to the migrant workers since? 

The Guardian newspaper in February 2021 stated that some 6500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka had died in Qatar since it had been awarded the World Cup in 2010. No figures for death were available for the workers from the Philippines and Kenya. The figures were supplied to the Guardian by the country’s embassies in Qatar. It remains unclear how many of these deaths were attributable directly to the World Cup infrastructural work as the Qatari authorities did not make the information available. 

The Qatari government did not keep meaningful statistics but has admitted to 37 deaths of labourers between 2014 and 2020, of which 3 were “work-related”.

The United Nations Agency, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which signed an agreement with Qatar in 2017 to improve work conditions, stated in a 2021 report that “it is still not possible to present a categorical figure for the number of fatal occupational injuries in the country.” The ILO admitted that in 2021, 50 workers died, 500 were severely injured, and 37,500 suffered mild to moderate injuries. The Qatari government says workers have much-improved working conditions, and the kafala system, which binds workers to employers, has been abolished. Evidence from workers indicates otherwise.

Amnesty International stated bluntly that Qatar has failed to adequately investigate and certify thousands of migrant deaths, and to this day, those deaths remain unacknowledged by the Qatari state authorities. One-half of migrant workers’ deaths are attributed to “unknown causes”, “natural causes”, and “cardiovascular diseases”. While toiling for long hours in scorching summer heat conditions and living in poor conditions, many workers paid the ultimate price for their labour. Remember that the summer months in Qatar were deemed too hot for FIFA, the players and the fans; the World Cup was moved to November/December 2022 from its traditional June/July dates!)

In August 2022, Amnesty said that more than 15000 foreigners of all ages and occupations had died in Qatar between 2010 and 2019. Estimates put the total number of migrant workers, who have virtually no rights in Qatar, at between 1.5 million and 2 million, of which some 400,000 work on various construction projects.

Recently French journalists Sebastian Castelier and Quentin Muller, in their book “Les Esclaves de l’Homme Petrole” (“The Oil Man’s Slaves”), exposed the brutal working conditions of many migrants in Qatar supported by some 60 personal testimonies of the workers.

The failure of the Qatari government to produce clear and reliable statistics for the causes of the deaths is not acceptable, given its undoubted sophistication in other spheres. It represents a deliberate attempt to cover up the true position. It is fairly evident that Qatar’s World Cup became a graveyard for many migrant workers even as their bodies were flown back to their native countries. Issues such as the Qatari human rights record and its attitude to same-sex relations have also drawn much criticism. 

“Mother Jones” magazine, in its November/December 2022 edition, contains a comprehensive and penetrating article by Tim Murphy, “Power Ball….How oligarchs, private equity, and petrostates took over soccer”, which detailed the sports-washing taking place in soccer, with particular emphasis on the scandals of the World Cup. The umbilical cord of enormous wealth passing between these entities and professional sports has now rotted the beautiful games.

Mother Jones Magazine November/December 2022 Edition.

The enormous level of arms purchases by Qatar from some countries whose FIFA executive members supported the original bid from the Emirate for the World Cup ($16 billion to France for fighter jets) and the corruption of this FIFA 22-man executive committee so well documented in FIFA Uncovered on Netflix is testament to scale of “one of the sleaziest, rottenest examples of corruption in the history of sport” (quoted from Malachy Clerkin in “The Irish Times” of 12th November 2022).

The sight of coffins arriving on airport trolleys in Kathmandu Airport and the funeral byres along the rivers in Nepal provide a jolting realisation of the human cost of the modern mass exploitation of migrant workers.

Not even the sponsored sports-washing and motorcycle videos of former soccer stars and influencers for Qatar can hide the reality that millions of sports followers worldwide will turn off or largely ignore this World Cup show in 2022. Thousands of migrant workers have died, and tens of thousands of these workers have been injured during the decade-long construction works to bring this World Cup to your televisions for the next few weeks. 

Almost 100 years ago, Mother Jones wrote in her autobiography about the working conditions of the extractive fossil fuel industry of coal mining.

” I have been in West Virginia more or less for the past twenty-three years, taking part in the interminable conflicts that arose between the industrial slaves and their masters. The conflicts were always bitter. Mining is cruel work. Men are down in utter darkness hours on end. They have no life in the sun. They come up from the silence of the earth utterly wearied. Sleep and work, work and sleep. No time or strength for education, no money for books. No leisure for thought.”  (The Autobiography of Mother Jones, C. H.Kerr 1925)

In a bitter and ironic twist of fate, at the Qatar World Cup, today’s workers are forced to endure long hours slaving under the harsh effects of the powerful sun to build football temples for their masters. The untold riches derived from to-day’s extractive polluting fossil fuel industry, an industry which may doom the entire planet are being wasted by the modern-day oil barons on sports washing vanity projects.     

Pray for these migrant workers and fight like hell for the survivors of this sports scandal.

 From Allihies to Leadville, Another ‘Trail of Tears’.

Leadville Miner Memorial, (J Goltz),

Today as one descends into the community from the high Castletownbere road, the beauty of Ballydonegan Bay and Allihies village on the Beara peninsula in West Cork remains stunning to the eye. Alive with tourists, music and life in the summertime, it slumbers gently during the wild winter months. The hills all around are dotted with the remains of mine sites, there is a busy Copper Mine Museum providing a focus point for information, study and relaxation in the linear village. One can walk the Allihies Copper Mine Trail, in the footsteps of the miners. The village’s past is bound up with the local mines and their impact, its future is to tell the miner’s story.

Mining began here in 1812 at Dooneen, established by John Puxley, the local landlord, followed in 1813 by the Mountain Mine and in 1818 by the Caminches Mine. Mines opened and closed, Dooneen in 1838, Caminches in the 1840s.  Eventually mine shafts pockmarked the hills rising to the north of the village. By 1842, upwards of 1600 men and boys, some from Cornwall, worked underground and across the hilly landscape. The large Kealogue mine opened.

Working conditions were brutal, many died, and strikes were smashed in a ruthless manner. As the great Famine devastated West Cork (1845-1852), food was brought in by the Puxleys to keep the mines in operation. The emigration of some miners and their families began. The miners especially at the Kealogue mine were concerned by safety issues and went on strike in 1861.

Later in 1864, there was a confrontation with the local Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) when they marched on the Mountain Mine to demand better pay and conditions. Further strikes followed over low wages and resentment grew as the mine owners constructed extravagant additions to their Puxley Manor at nearby Dunboy Castle. Emigration continued as workforce was reduced, the mines were sold and finally closed in 1884. Sporadic attempts to reopen mines, including some exploration for base metals and uranium have taken place in the 1970s, but the old mines remain a silent testament to a difficult past.   

Many miners and their families journeyed to the USA, using the infamous coffin ships, facing disease and exploitation upon arrival. They remained always transient, for ever journeying westwards to the copper mines of Butte, Montana and to Michigan, to Pennsylvania, and onwards to Leadville, high in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.

Prospector Abe Lee struck gold at California Gulch in Colorado about 1860. Will Stevens followed around 1875 and when he discovered the silver-bearing carbonate of lead in the old diggings at an altitude of 10,000 feet, the miners quickly renamed the old town. Leadville immediately became a magnet for the silver rush of the mobile mining workforce arriving in the New World. 

Originally a mining camp, Leadville prospered in the bonanza and developed a notorious reputation for gambling, brothels and drinking saloons as vividly described by the local Daily Chronicle newspaper. However, it was not that unlike nearby mining towns such as Cripple Creek, or indeed Deadwood, or Butte. By 1890, Leadville had a population of 25,000 and six churches. And by 1896, Leadville was so wealthy that in a display of ostentatious civic pride it was able to construct an Ice Palace, costing $20,000 and covering some 5 acres. In the same year, there began a nine-month strike by the Cloud City Miners’ Union (local of the Western Federation of Miners WFM). The miners were seeking a daily rate of just $3.00, yet they were defeated and at least six miners died in the conflict.

Colorado National Guard protecting mines during the Leadville Union Strike of 1896 (Denver Public Library).

Hundreds of Irish miners joined the rush to the tiny town. Research by Assistant Professor, James Walsh at the University of Colorado in Denver has identified hundreds of graves at the Catholic and paupers’ graveyards at Evergreen Cemetery in the town. Many contain remains of young Irish miners and their families, some from West Cork.

James Walsh estimates from his research in the Catholic parish records that 1400 people are buried in unmarked graves in the paupers’ section and up to 70% of them have Irish names. Their average age is just 23 years and half of them were children under 12. There could be up to 2500 Irish immigrants buried in the wider cemetery. A significant number can be linked back to Allihies.

Their brief lives underground were filled with dangers, sickness and back breaking work for very little money. The journey from Allihies to Leadville in many ways represents a further “trail of tears” * for the mining population of the Beara peninsula who now lie in often unmarked graves among the woods of the town.

Experiences of underground miners were captured by photographer, Timothy O’Sullivan, a young veteran of the American Civil War whose work down in the pits has preserved for ever this hell-like subterranean prison of the mining life. His images of ghostly and gaunt men with far away expressions working deep underground are matched in the work of Tom McGuinness, miner and artist who painted remarkable images of the silent and lonely coalminers in the mining tunnels of the North East of England almost a century later.

The Loneliness of the Underground Miner: Photo (Timothy O’Sullivan). National Archives USA

For those who have never mined in the mineral veins of the earth, it is hard to imagine the oppressive heat, the dirt and filth and the sheer loneliness of men and boys who rarely saw the daylight of the magnificent Rocky Mountains. It was the new world of many Irish and some did not survive for long in the horrific and dangerous working conditions of this snowbound town. 

Miners in the Shaft Lifts at Cripple Creek (Denver Public Library.)

Some Irish prospered. In 1880, Thomas Francis Walsh, from Tipperary discovered a vein of quartz bearing silver at Leadville and made a huge fortune. James Doyle, James Burns and John Harnan made a fortune at Cripple Creek. The “Silver Kings” of Cornstock were four Irishmen, John Mackay, James Fair, James Flood and William O’Brien. So as miners and their families worked for a few dollars a day, the “Kings” flaunted their riches, building gigantic mansions, erecting marble columns, and commissioning pure silver candelabras.  

The silver rush continued into the 1890s when most local mines closed, the remaining miners headed to Denver and the Colorado coalmines of John D. Rockefeller where they and their descendants’ joined unions at the urging of Cork born Mother Jones, and the United Mine Workers Union under John Mitchell in the early 1900s. Others later took part in the bitter West Virginia/Colorado Coal Wars of 1913/14, which culminated in the Ludlow Massacre.

On a beautiful Saturday afternoon in September 2022, Alan Grourke, President of the Irish Network in Colorado introduced a series of speakers to a crowd which had gathered to witness the emotional unveiling of a memorial to the Irish miners and their families who lie buried alongside. The memorial depicts “Liam” the miner as he sits, facing back to Ireland some 7000 kms. to Allihies with his miners pick and an Irish harp.

Liam the Miner faces Ireland (J. Goltz).

James Walsh speaking to Denver 7, a local TV station said as he walked near the unmarked graves among the trees stated.

“This is what class looks like in America, they were forgotten……instead of honouring the monarchy, we are honouring the poorest of the poor and that’s a radical thing to do, it changes perspectives, it changes dynamics and by honouring nineteen century workers, we honour 21st century immigrant workers too.”

Irish Consul, Micheal Smith, representing the Irish government which contributed financially paid tribute to the organising committee for their dedication to erecting the memorial, while the Mayor of Leadville, Greg Labbe provided an account of the harsh lives of the miners. Historian Kathleen Fitzsimmons pointed to the rounded stones forming the memorial and the pathway as a symbol of the spiral and urged people to visit this “sacred space” and leave the world better for their children. The Irish Miners’ Memorial is expected to be completed in 2023.

A blessing of the memorial then took place by Native American Cassandra Atencio, member of the Southern Ute Tribe on whose native lands the graveyard and memorial lies. The blessing provided further historical and symmetrical symbolic connections between the indigenous people of North America and the Irish.

The Choctaw Nation contributed funds to the town of Midleton in Co Cork during the Famine in 1847, despite being forced on their own ‘Trail of Tears’ during the ethnic cleansings of 1831-1833. Several thousand tribal members died on those marches.

Monument to the Choctaw at Midleton, Co. Cork.

The Ute people always lived in harmony with their wild environment and took care of Mother Earth.

An Ute prayer for the planet.

May the Earth teach you stillness as the grasses are stilled with light
May the Earth teach you suffering as old stone suffer with memory
May the Earth teach you humility as blossoms are humble with beginning

May the Earth teach you caring as the mother who serves her young
May the Earth teach you courage as the tree which stands you all alone
May the Earth teach you limitation as the ant which crawls on the ground.

May the Earth teach you freedom as the eagle which sores in the sky
May the Earth teach you resignation as the leaves which die in the fall
May the Earth teach you regeneration as the seed which rises in the spring.

May the Earth teach you to forget yourself as the melted snow forgets its life
May the Earth teach you to remember kindness as dry field weep with rain.

An appropriate monument and a fitting blessing for all those who lie in soil of Leadville.

*During the harsh winter of 1602/3 following defeat of the Irish at the Battle of Kinsale, Beara Chieftain, Donal Cam O’Sullivan Beare had led a thousand people from his peninsula clan and home on a 500 kms. March north to Co. Leitrim to escape the English attacks…after a trail of tears……. just thirty-five reached safety among the O’Rourke clan in Leitrim!

The Unveiling of the Irish Miner Memorial at Leadville Colorado (Courtesy of James Goltz).

Visit Allihies Copper Mine Museum, http://www.acmm.ie,

Visit INCO Irish Network Colorado, http://www.irishnetworkco.com.

A Trade Union Vision for a New and United Ireland.

Discussion at the Maldron Hotel, Shandon on Friday 30th July at 11:30am.

Presentation by Trade Unionists for a United Ireland (TUNUI),  Christy McQuillan, Paddy Mackel, Conor McCarthy and Mags O’Brien.

The aim of the trade unionists behind this initiative is to “put the economic and social equality into the heart of the discussion on a New Ireland”

They further argue that workers should discuss what a ‘New Ireland’ might involve, and contend that it should be based on equality.

This means that economic and social justice, human rights, women’s rights, children rights should be at the core of any new Constitution.

“As the largest civic society movement in the country, trade unions have a particular responsibility to involve themselves in the ongoing debate.”

All are welcome to join in the discussion and the Q&A which follows this presentation. 

Come along and have your say.

Mick Lynch to Speak at Durham Gala.

The annual Durham Gala will take place on Saturday 9th July 2022 following a break of two years due to Covid-19.  The Gala this year is “dedicated to the key workers”, who provided essential services in the UK during the recent pandemic.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee extend warm congratulations and solidarity to the Durham Miners Association and wish the DMA well for a fantastic parade and Big Meeting.

The parade itself features thousands of people of all ages from former mining communities across the north of England marching behind their colourful banners and colliery bands.

Dave Hopper, a former General Secretary of the DMA along with his committee were regular attenders at the Spirit of Mother Festivals. Dave spoke at the 2014 and 2015 Festivals, and he provided a first hand account of events at the battle of Orgreave as well as contributing to the general discussions.

He was awarded the 2016 Spirit of Mother Jones Award posthumously after his sudden death a few weeks before the festival in 2016.

The Durham Miner’s Association is based at Red Hills in Durham, which was opened in 1915.

View of Red Hills, home of the Durham Miners Association.

The Red Hills contains the Miners Parliament where representatives of each of the lodges of county Durham once met to decide on union matters.

Imposing entrance featuring Alexander McDonald, William Crawford, William Patterson and John Forman, early leaders of the DMA.

Mick Lynch, General Secretary of the RMT Union will speak at the Big Meeting on Saturday 9th July 2022. Mick, whose father was from Cork has led the recent rail strikes in Britain.

It is a huge honour to speak at the Big Meeting. This year is the 75th Anniversary of the death of Irish trade union leader, Jim Larkin, a founder of the ITGWU, (now SIPTU) and the Irish Citizen Army. In 1914, a few months after the end of the Dublin Lockout, Jim Larkin spoke at the Durham Gala and on the day argued for one union,

” if one section is out, you should be ready to bring out everyone of you”

As the miners’ banners were carried from the field in Durham on that day in July 1914, they were not to return for five years………….. just ten days later Britain was at war with Germany. 

For further information, visit.

https://www.durhamminers.org/

Historian Luke Dineen to speak at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2022.

As 2022 signals a return to real festival events, we are happy to announce that Luke Dineen will once again speak at this year’s Spirit of Mother Jones Festival. 

Labour and trade union historian Luke has appeared at many of our festivals and is one of the most popular contributors. 

He brings to life the often forgotten history of the trade union movement in Cork and its proud contribution to bettering the lives of ordinary people.

Luke, who was awarded a PhD in labour history from UCC will speak on the “Cork General Lockout of 1923”.

The end of the Civil War in May 1923 encouraged the Cork Employers’ Federation (CEF) to demand wage reductions across a wide range of workplaces in the city. Discussions and negotiations with the unions failed to resolve the issues and by July 1923, the ITGWU dockers were on strike. The employers insisted on wage reductions of  up to 25% and further reductions in workers allowances which the unions refused to accept.

On 20th August 1923, most businesses in Cork closed, the Cork Lockout had begun, over 6000 workers were on strike. 

It was part of a wider effort by employers in other cities and towns across Ireland to bring about wage cuts.

Despite large marches, sackings, mass unemployment and growing signs of serious shortages of food and coal stocks, John Rearden, a solicitor and secretary of the CEF refused to compromise and the impasse dragged on in the city. 

Recently elected TD and UCC Registrar Alfred O’Rahilly acted as arbitrator in the dispute and agreed a resolution with Trade Union leader Jim Hickey.

Most workers went back on reduced wages by mid November and while at  the end of the day, both sides accepted compromises, the trade unions suffered most as the lockout used up much of their financial resources in strike pay, Payments to strikers by the ITGWU were almost 24,000 pounds representing 15% of all the union’s expenditure for 1923. (1919 was under 1%). Membership fell to a third of its 1923 level by 1928. Employers still retained the right to hire and fire at will. 

Most employees were back at work by early November. 1923 was an annus horribilis for the Irish Trade union movement.

The new Free State government had signalled that they no longer needed to encourage the acquiescence and support of organised Labour in the struggle for independence.

The government instead aligned with the new State’s established business class, whose pragmatic rapprochement with the new political order reflected the inherent conservatism of the real victors in the Irish Civil War. 

Luke Dineen will speak at the Shandon Maldron Hotel at 11.30 am on Saturday 30th July. All are welcome. 

Sources: 

Article by Luke Dineen ‘Class War in Cork’: The Cork General Lockout of 1923′ in Saothar 46.  (Journal of the Irish Labour History Society 2021).

Article by Francis Devine, The Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union in Cork City and County 1918-1930. (Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society Volume 124, 2019).

Documentaries at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2021.

The following films associated with Mother Jones and the labour movement in Ireland and America will be shown as part of the 2021 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival. The Cork Mother Jones Committee wishes to thank our friends. Lamprini Thoma, Mari-Lynn Evans, Randal MacLowry, Rosemary Feurer and everyone at Frameworks Films for their kindness towards ensuring access to these films.

Friday 26th November at 7:00 pm.

“Tadhg Barry Remembered.” A film produced by Frameworks Films in collaboration with the Cork Council of Trade Unions for Cork Community Television. Release Date: 2013. Runtime: 60 minutes.

This documentary tells the story of Tadhg Barry (1880-1921), a native of Cork city, who has largely been forgotten. It seems hard to believe that a man whose funeral, one of the largest ever in Ireland, and which closed shops and factories from Co Down to Cork city could be relegated to a footnote in history. And yet this is what has happened to a man who was one of the last people to be killed by British forces during the War of Independence on 15th November 1921, just weeks prior to the signing of the Treaty.

Active in numerous organisations such as the G.A.A and the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, Barry was a committed socialist, was a union organizer and had organized meetings for James Connolly in Cork as well as being involved with Sinn Fein. He was later elected as an Alderman to Cork City Council.

The documentary was funded under the Sound & Vision scheme, an initiative of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. www.frameworksfilms.com.

Saturday 27th November at 2:00 pm.

“Blood On The Mountain.” A film produced by Mari-Lynn Evans, Deborah Wallace and Jordan Freeman. Release date: 18th November 2016. Runtime: 93 minutes.

The film is an honest investigation into the economic and environmental injustices that have resulted from industrial control in West Virginia. The documentary details the struggles of a hard‐working, often misunderstood people, who have historically faced limited choices and have never benefited fairly from the rich, natural resources of their land.

Blood on the Mountain delivers a striking portrait of a fractured population, exploited and besieged by corporate interests, and abandoned by those elected to represent them. The beauty of the oldest mountain range in North America, with lush, old growth forests, small towns and isolated communities, is contrasted with the long‐term poverty, migration, lack of health care, inadequate educational systems, and political corruption. The coal, timber, oil, and gas industries have generated billions of dollars, but these huge profits went to companies in other states, leaving the region impoverished. Appalachia is a wonderful place, a home to a resilient people but is a mass of contradictions.

Many Appalachian counties are left with little or no tax base to help fund schools, health care, or job creation. Entrenched, corrupt local governments and lagging public policy have not generated sustainable economic alternatives in the region. It is a cruel irony that a region so rich in natural resources is home to many of the poorest and exploited people in the United States.

 www.bloodonthemountain.com.

Saturday 27th November at 4:00 pm

“Palikari…….Louis Tikas and the Ludlow Massacre” a film from Greece by Lamprini Thoma and Nickos Ventouras.  Release Date: 2014. Runtime: 92 minutes.

The Ludlow Massacre and the assassination of Greek immigrant and labour leader Louis Tikas (Elias Spantidakis) is one of the decisive moments of the American labour movement, an event that connects, a century later, the United States of 1914 to the labour and immigrant demands of Greece.

Louis Tikas and union organisers, mainly Greek miners had established a tent colony at Ludlow. However as tension and attacks on the union village escalated, Tikas was murdered along with two other union men by Lieutenant Karl Linderfelt of the Colorado National Guard on 19th/20th April 1914. Later the tented village was attacked and burned to the ground by elements of the Colorado National Guard. (led by Sligo born Patrick Hamrock!)

After this attack, the charred bodies of two women and eleven children were located in the pits. Patria Valdez and four of her children including Elvira, just three months old died, along with the Costa family Cerdelina and Charlie and two children aged 4 and 6 years. An eleven year old boy, Frank Snyder was killed by a bullet through the head. It led to open warfare between thousands of miners and mines guards in which many were killed.

Lamprini Thoma and Nikolaos Ventouras examined the memories, the history and the legacy of Louis Tikas and the Ludlow massacre in Colorado, talked with prominent historians, artists and descendants of Ludlow miners, and documented the scars left by this tragedy on the body of working America. http://www.palikari.org/

Saturday 27th November at 6:00 pm.

“Mother Jones, America’s Most Dangerous Woman” a film by Rosemary Feurer and Laura Vazquez. Release Date:  2007 (Canada). Runtime: 24 min.

Mother Jones: America’s Most Dangerous Woman is a documentary about the amazing labor heroine, Mary Harris Jones, known as Mother Jones. Mother Jones’ organising career influenced the history of early 20th century United States. She overcame class and gender limitations to shape an identity that allowed her to become an effective labor organiser in the early 20th century. Mother Jones transformed personal and political grief and rage about class injustices into an effective persona that led workers into battles that changed the course of history. The terrible conditions and labor oppression of the time motivated her to traverse the country, in order to organise against injustices. It also examines the human tragedy of the Ludlow Massacre.#

www.motherjonesmuseum.org

Sunday November 28th at 2:00 pm.

“The Mine Wars” a film produced and directed by Randal MacLowry. Release Date: 2016. Runtime: 120 min

A production of the Film Possee for American Experience (WGBH-Boston).

The Mine Wars explores the largely forgotten story of the epic struggle between Capital and Labour over the recognition of the United Mine workers of America union in the coalfields of South West Virginia. These culminated in the largest civil insurrection in America since the Civil War at Blair Mountain where thousands of miners took up arms and were even bombed from the air.

Between 1890 and 1912, miners in West Virginia endured the highest death rate in America. Mother Jones was active in 1902 and again in the period 1912-1913 when Paint Creek and Cabin Creek featured. Later Mingo County, Logan County, the Matewan Massacre and the Battle of Blair Mountain where at least 50 people were killed are highlighted. This film concentrates on a UMWA leader and former miner Frank Keeney, who inspired by Mother Jones went to organise the union in West Virginia.

Mother Jones, herself incarcerated for three months in West Virginia, described the state as “Medieval West Virginia with its tent colonies on the bleak hills! With its grim men and women! When I get to the other side, I shall tell God almighty about West Virginia.”

The Mine Wars tells the story on this side! See The Film Possee Facebook. www.pbs.org

Thanks to Randall.

Sunday November 28th at 4:00 pm 

“Mother Jones and her Children” a film by Frameworks Films and the Cork Mother Jones Committee. Release Date: July 2014. Runtime: 52 min.

This film tells the story of Mary Harris (1837 – 1930) from Cork who went on to become “the most dangerous woman in America”. Starting with her early years in Cork, this documentary goes on to detail her life in America following the famine, her marriage to George Jones and the birth of her four children. It details the tragedies which befell her. Her growing involvement in the labour movement in America, defending the rights of children and workers is documented. Through interviews with leading experts on Mother Jones, we learn of her fearless and tireless campaign to organise workers at a time of severe labour strife and her international legacy today. www.frameworksfilm.com

Tadhg Barry… “Always Keeps in the Background”.

The 2021 Spirit of Mother Jones festival will include an interview with Donal Ō Drisceoil, author of Utter Disloyalist: Tadhg Barry and the Irish Revolution. This will be shown on Cork Community Television (www.corkcommunitytv.ie) on Friday evening 26th November beginning at 7:00 pm.

Tadhg Barry…….”always keeps in the background”.

RIC Intelligence report


On Tuesday 15th November 1921, at Ballykinlar internment prison, known by some as the “World’s End Camp” close to the Co Down coast, a rifle shot suddenly split the afternoon silence. A man standing near the prison fence, waving farewell to departing friends fell backwards, mortally wounded near the heart. Unarmed, of no threat to anyone, Tadhg Barry lay dead.

Young sentry, Barrett’s single bullet ended in a shocking manner the life of man who had been 20 years in the engine room of the Irish revolution. He was the final IRA fatality of the brutal regime in this camp, in which at least eight internees died (three shot, and five from malnutrition) during 1921. These included Patrick Sloan and Joe Tormey, two friends from Moate, Co Westmeath both killed on 17th January by the same bullet.

Barry was older than most of the two thousand or so internees, a father figure in the transition of Cork from a Union Jack bedecked city at the turn of the 20th century, towards the ungovernable rebel cockpit of the War of Independence by 1921. From the strategic framework of constructing a revolution beginning with Gaelic culture and language to Gaelic games, from secret brotherhoods to Sinn Fēin, from journalism to socialist ideas, from trade union organisation and negotiation to developing the military hardware and intelligence around the dirty business of fighting a war in the streets and laneways of his native city, his fingerprints were obvious to those who knew.

Historian and author Donal Ō Drisceoil, who has constantly shone a light on Tadhg Barry describes him as “a doer”.

To observers he seemed to have been around forever, always smiling, low key, unassuming yet possessing the razor sharp wit of his native streets, his progress through the myriad groups and local activist alliances in the political ferment always gathering momentum.

Tadgh Barry front row left alongside Tomás MacCurtain. Terence McSwiney, back row, second from the right.

The Royal Irish Constabulary intelligence reports were very uncomplimentary and vindictive; Barry was variously described as “a leading Cork City extremist”, “notorious Sinn Feiner”, “in touch with all the leaders prior to the (1916) rebellion”, “mischievous, socialist, bolshevist……generally of the Napper Tandy type”. And most of all, Barry “always keeps in the background”. Tadhg Barry was a marked man!

Born in 54 Blarney Street on 25th Feb 1880 into a working class family, Barry was educated at the local Blarney Street school and the nearby North Monastery. Afterwards he worked at various jobs and then in 1903, he emigrated to London for a while.

Soon after his return, he became very active in the Gaelic Athletic Association (G.A.A.). He engaged in reorganising the GAA County Board and helping to establish the various playing competitions as well as the infrastructure of the main playing ground along the Marina known as the Cork Athletic grounds, now the home of the impressive Pāirc Uí Chaoimh stadium!

His efforts to promote hurling at his rugby playing alma mater resulted in the North Mon School becoming by 1916 established as a vital hurling nursery for the game for the future decades. He also encouraged the playing of camogie in the city and even found the time to manage a ladies team. Tadhg was especially associated with encouraging hurling in the Sundays Well, and Blarney Street areas, and was involved with the original Sundays Well/St. Vincent’s GAA Club in Cork.

A voracious reader, he worked as a journalist writing as “An Ciotóg” (a left-handed person!) for the Cork Free Press, the newspaper of the All For Ireland League (AFIL), which dominated Cork politics at the time.

Although deeply embroiled in the local rivalry in Cork between the Irish Party led by John Redmond and All For Ireland League (AFIL), led by William O’Brien who had a strong labour base in Cork, Tadhg Barry later abandoned O’Brien who had supported the British recruitment efforts at the outbreak of the First World War.

Barry spent much time strategically subverting this recruitment for the Great War effort from 1914 onwards. He had been among the first in Cork to join the Irish Volunteers and worked alongside Terence MacSwiney, Tomas MacCurtain and Sean Hegarty who were active following the split of the Volunteers from John Redmond.

As the political ferment in the city increased, his contribution to the separatist organisations along with his pleasant demeanour and approach engendered a better collective and cooperative spirit among the various activists. Following the failure of the Cork volunteers to rise in 1916, Barry refused to give up his gun and, although dismayed at events, he simply continued working for the revolution in practical ways. He openly advocated military options and his “seditious” speeches resulted in jail terms yet he kept working to reactivate a “new” Sinn Fein and organise the companies of volunteers into a fighting force.

He began to realise more and more that organised Labour provided the key element to the coming revolution. Barry had helped to arrange meetings for socialist trade union leaders such as James Larkin and James Connolly in Cork back in 1914 – 16. Now one leader had been executed after the 1916 Rising and the other was in America. Having returned to journalism, he wrote weekly for the Southern Star, newspaper under the pen name of “Neath Shandon’s Steeple”.

Tadhg’s increasingly radical left wing analytical articles for the Irish Transport & General Workers Union (ITGWU) Voice of Labour along with his urgings for independent Irish led trade unions combined with workers growing militancy across the country suggests that he was more and more exploring this avenue of potential for revolution. The effective general strike of 23rd April 1918 against conscription organised by the Labour Congress, even if that particular bus carried many passengers, clearly pointed to the latent power of organised Irish workers.

As a full time trade union organiser from 1919 in the rapidly growing ITGWU, he concentrated on organising rural and town workers and travelled throughout the county of Cork as the One Big Union enjoyed a huge growth in membership and challenged the power of the traditionally unionist business community to set wages for a once subservient and cowed workforce. Barry’s left wing views developed and he openly wrote of the day when the workers would govern Ireland in “the interests of Irish workers” but managed to reconcile this with his Catholic beliefs.

Cork ITGWU Union Banner for Tadgh Barry.

The Catholic Church actively opposed socialism and god-less communism, and Barry as a union negotiator seems to have identified with an element of the Church’s social teachings, which justified the payment of fair wages by responsible employers. However this approach by the Union and the Church sought to reduce the potential growth of awareness of class conflict and the analysis of the fundamental basis of capitalism. Whether Barry’s revolutionary language and actions would have developed or indeed survived in the new state is unclear?

In the local elections of January 1920, Barry was elected on a Sinn Fein/ITGWU slate as an Alderman to the Cork Corporation for the north west of the city, where he lived. He carried out his many work roles through 1920 as his comrades, MacCurtain and MacSwiney and others died in the bitter war between the Crown forces and Republicans in Cork. (Barry and MacSwiney were both 40 years old when they died, Barry lived just over 50 days more than his comrade.)

Tadhg Barry was arrested for the final time on 31st January 1921 and was detained at Ballykinlar Camp on the north east coast of Ireland. Each of his three extended periods in jail after 1916 were spent in appalling prison conditions. He missed out on the final months of the War of independence and was shot dead only twenty four days before all prisoners were released after the signing of the Treaty on 6th December of that year.

Following his death, the entire Sinn Fein/IRA/Trade Union/GAA/ Gaelic societies and Catholic Church united for what turned out to be the last time to provide Tadhg Barry with arguably the largest Irish funeral ever seen as his remains were transported from Co Down, through the many towns on the way and the streets of Dublin and Cork to St Finbarr’s cemetery in Cork. Photographs of the enormous funeral march from Dublin and Cork show densely packed streets everywhere.

He was then largely forgotten, except by his own family and close friends!

Tadgh Barry Grave at St. Finbarrs Cemetery (Incorrect age at death).

Tadhg was the main earner in the Blarney Street household which contained his deceased sister’s three children and he also supported his brother Patrick who had health issues. While some monies were paid out to the family following Tadhg’s death, the official military correspondence about military medals and pension penny pinching reflects poorly on the new Irish State. Tadhg’s active invisibility to those who did not know and his more vocal public socialist views were perhaps a convenient excuse for deliberate bureaucratic inertia!

Tadgh Barry Road, named in 2013.

The tragedy is that Tadhg’s voice was never heard in the independent Ireland taking shape when voices advocating social justice were so badly needed!

Dr Donal Ō Drisceoil has recently penned ‘Utter Disloyalist: Tadhg Barry and the Irish Revolution’ published by the Mercier Press which tells the full story of the life of Tadhg Barry. In 2011 he had also produced an excellent booklet Tadhg Barry (1880-1921) The Story of an Irish Revolutionary.

The Cork Mother Jones Committee will commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the death of Tadhg Barry in November 1921. Donal has provided an extended interview with committee member Ann Piggott about Tadhg Barry which will be broadcast during the 2021 Spirit of Mother Jones Festival. In addition we will show the documentary Tadhg Barry Remembered, produced in 2013 by Frameworks Films in collaboration with the Cork Council of Trade Unions.

Both films will be shown on Cork Community TV on Friday evening 26th November commencing at 7:00 pm.

It will be followed by a Q&A with Donal Ō Drisceoil for those attending at the Maldron Hotel. (subject to existing Covid-19 regulations at that date).

Author, Donal Ó Drisceoil, beneath Shandon Steeple, 2021.

The Dynamic Role of Labour Unions in the Wake of Covid-19 and the Safe Keeping of Frontline Workers

Spirit of Mother Jones Festival in partnership with

University College Cork Civic & Community Engagement

27 November 2020, 3.00 – 4.00 pm (Irish GMT)

We are at critical juncture for trade unions and worker’s rights during this period of economic stress, joblessness, and wealth concentration.  Education and healthcare professions are among those front-line workers who now face increased health and safety risks.  Join Dr Edward Lahiff (IFUT National Executive) in conversation with Ms. Ann Piggott, President of the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland (ASTI) and Ms. Phil Ni Sheaghdha, General Secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) on the role of Unions in leading the way forward.

With both health and education sectors providing vital services to society, panellists consider how the global pandemic will reframe issues of labour rights and workplace safety over the next decade.

To Register: (see below)

This event will be hosted live and broadcast using Microsoft Teams.

SPEAKERS:

·         Dr. Edward Lahiff (moderator), Branch Chair of the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) at University College Cork. 

·         Ms. Phil Ni Sheaghdha, General Secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO);

·         Ms. Ann Piggott, President of the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland (ASTI);

Organised by Dr. John Barimo in partnership with University College Cork Civic & Community Engagement.

There will be a couple of ways for people to register and attend the Live Event webinar.  

1. You can pre-register with Eventbrite. Eventbrite is programmed to send email reminders 24-hours and 1-hour before the event, so less likely to forget. Click Here to Register

2. Click Here for direct webinar access at the time of the event.

IMPORTANT: This event will be broadcast on Microsoft Teams.  If you have not used Microsoft Teams in the past, please allow yourself a few extra moments before the event.  *You do not need to download the MS Teams app.  When you click the link to join simply (1) select option ‘Join on Web Instead’. (2) On next screen select ‘Join Anonymously’.   

Photos: Phil Ni Sheaghdha, Ann Piggott, Dr. Edward Lahiff, Dr. John Barimo.

Historic new photos of Mother Jones rediscovered

Mother Jones in car

Mother Jones with Guy Miller (Miner’s Bulletin)

 

The Cork Mother Jones Committee has received the following photographs of Mother Jones during her visit to Northern Michigan during the Copper Country strike of 1913/14. She went north to the Great Lakes area to address a mass meeting of the union members and supporters. Mother Jones was 76 years old at the time. 

 
The strike, organised by the Western Federation of Miners (WFM), is today best remembered for the Italian Hall Disaster on Christmas Eve 1913 when a false fire alarm at a miners function in a hall in Calumet, Michigan caused a crush and resulted in the deaths of 73 people, mainly children.
Woodie Guthrie’s song “1913 Massacre” tells the story of this disaster. 
 

Mother Jones in Strikers Parade 1913

These photographs were supplied by the Michigan Technological University Archives and the Copper County Historical Collections. We wish to thank Lindsay Hiltunen, University Archivist of the Michigan Technological University.

Mining Strike (Michigan Technological University Archive

 
We acknowledge also the assistance of Jeremiah Mason Archivist of the Lake Superior Collection Management Centre in Calumet, Michigan. Thanks also to James Goltz of the Mount Olive museum. 

Luke Dineen: “Connect Trade Union – An Early History, 1919-23”

The Cork Mother Jones Committee is delighted to welcome historian Luke Dineen to the 2019 Spirit of Mother Jones Summer School.

Luke will address the topic of “Craftsmen and the Irish Revolution 1920 – 23. The outline of the talk follows.

Connect Trade Union – An Early History, 1919-23”

Luke Dineen

“Organised labour was a vital component of the independence struggle from 1918-20. During those year labour was an open, though unofficial, ally of the republican movement. Many trade unionists were active members of Sinn Féin and/or the IRA. Although craftsmen were at the heart of the Irish revolution, their role in it has received little attention from historians. With the aid of the republicans, craftsmen launched breakaway Irish trade unions tasked with playing their part in destroying British rule in Ireland. Despite a tumultuous birth, one such union survives to this day: Connect Trade Union, until recently called the Technical, Electrical and Engineering Union. It was, and remains, an exclusively Irish union for the trades, catering exclusively for Irish needs.

Connect Trade Union logo

This talk will chart the early history of Connect, covering its launch in May 1920 and the first few years of its existence. It will explore the factors that birthed the union and the extensive links it had to senior figures in the republican movement in its early years, including Michael Collins and Countess Markiewicz. In so doing, this talk will examine how the Irish working class perceived and participated in the Irish revolution, and what they got out of it. “

Luke has now participated in seven festivals and his contributions explore the hidden and often ignored contribution of the Irish trade union movement and working class people to the Irish revolutionary period in the early 20th Century. Among the areas which he has explored are the 1909 Cork Lockout, the Cork Harbour Soviet, the Post Office Strike of 1922, the labour movement and the republican struggle in Cork 1919-1923 and the life of Thomas “Corkie” Walsh.

Luke will speak on Friday morning 2nd August beginning at 11am at the Cathedral Visitor Centre.

All welcome.